Capture one idea
a day

Capture one idea a day - write it down, let it marinate over time.

Those are the seeds that you plant for your future and maybe a few of those will grow into bigger ideas and start a life of their own. Some will even bear fruits that you can live off of.

Capture one idea day even if it is a fleeting one. It is so important to have ideas. To think about things. You don’t have to share them with anybody. Keep them to yourself, but capture them or they will escape. The human memory is fallible. Writing down an idea ensures that it is not forgotten and can be accessed later when you have the time and resources to act upon it.

Fostering creativity

Capturing an idea a day encourages a constant state of creative thinking. This forces you to think more about your day and the actions you take. It helps you to be more present and in the moment. It enables you to look at the world from different perspectives and consider new possibilities. In the beginning this may feel like a chore, a task you have to do that adds to your workload. But over time this will become a habit. A second nature that can improve your ability to articulate thoughts that might otherwise pass unnoticed. Like any skill, the more you practice it, the better you become.

And as a byproduct it will enhance your creative thinking and problem solving skills over time, because writing down an idea affords that you have to put it into words. This acts as a first filter to help you get your nebulous thinking in order.

Keep it messy and “in the moment.”

I do not always capture every idea. Sometimes it just is not possible. But I at least try to! It does not have to be clean and elaborate. A quick and dirty napkin sketch is more than sufficient. Or a few words typed into your notes app. If the idea is a little bigger or I have the time and the space I will take out my phone and directly dictate my thoughts with text-to-speech. This is quite messy, but it works. Do not be bogged down by messiness at this stage, the important thing is to grab the idea so that you are able to externalize it. Get it out of your head and use your mental capacity for something else instead of holding onto that idea. If you captured it you can always come back to it later. It does not matter when “later” is. I still have captured ideas that I have never elaborated upon sitting more than a decade on my hard drive. Maybe I will start to work on them soon. Or maybe not. Life is too short and time moves so fast1. But at least I know I have captured it.

Let your ideas marinate

Let your ideas sit for a while. Let them marinate. Every now and then you go through your list of ideas and clean it up a little bit or have a look at what piques your interest. Which idea has marinated enough to be elaborated on? Spend some time on these ideas, think about them, let them grow a little bit bigger. But while you do it, do not forget to write down new ideas as well. At least in my case, every time I start to elaborate on on of the ideas in this list new ones come to mind that are spawn by the marinated idea. Like a flower growing petals.

Nurturing small ideas

Size doesn’t matter. The idea may be small or huge, quickly executed or take a long time. Nobody cares. The important thing is to keep working on it until it naturally grows and maybe one day we will be ripe enough be published or otherwise executed on. It does not necessarily mean that your idea will grow into a big and powerful one right away or that it will grow at all. But you will know that only if you keep track of it. So let nothing go to waste and put every idea that presents itself into a notebook. Then, like a good gardener, you prune your notebooks once a year when spring comes. You cut a little here and there to make room for new growth. Going over your ideas regularly like this helps you stay on top of your inner development and see if any patterns have emerged yet. Or maybe one of your older ideas has spawned a seed that you can plant to let something new grow out of it. Or they provide the missing link to a problem you’re trying to solve. Your idea notes can become a treasure trove of inspiration when you’re facing creative blockages so you don’t have to look so much at Pinterest for inspiration. You really think more like a gardener when approaching your ideas.

Think deeply about your ideas2

After you have elaborated on your ideas it is a good habit to deepen your thoughts concerning this idea. Do really think deeply. What is it that fascinates you about this idea? The point of this exercise is to discover things that let you grow as a person. In the beginning this approach might not yet work. But as your list of ideas grows you start to feel a pull in certain directions. You discover patterns in the ideas and the things that interest you. Patterns that only become visible once you externalized your ideas and started to work on them, work with them. These patterns about yourself can help you develop new directions for yourself. They help you to go from where you are to where you want to be. They let you discover things that are hidden deep inside you. Things you probably have not even thought about yet. But now they are there, laid out before your eyes, made visible by the habit of collecting at least one idea a day.

This process is really interesting in itself; discovering how the simple act of regularly writing your ideas down can change your life. In retrospect it is interesting to see how my interests have evolved and changed over the past decade since I started writing down ideas regularly just shy of a decade ago. Some interests have deepened, while others have almost faded. This helped me tremendously to get to know myself better. And this is all made possible by taking notes in tiny increments. One idea a day.

Especially in the age of [[generative-ai]] there is an even greater need to collect and think about your own ideas so that you do not succumb to relying so much on generated texts that you stop thinking for yourself. The goal is not to collect ideas to produce text for the sake of producing text, but to help you think for yourself in a deep and articulate way. Because if you do that regularly you will see that you have to rely less and less on texts, because you will have developed your own thinking and your own point of view.

Stop looking at other people for guidance

Because seeing those ideas grow can create a trajectory to move you from one place to another. Everybody has the urge to change their life from time to time. It does not have to be a drastic change, but even small steps can take you far if taken often. 3 To achieve that you must stop looking at other people for guidance. Of course this is useful from time to time. But more often then not you will achieve more if you develop the skill to fuel your own conviction to change. Only yourself can bring you from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow or in a year. To achieve that you have to discover who you are and who you want to be. The easiest way to do that is to look at the ideas you collect and the thoughts that deeply move you when you are alone with yourself. From that you can discover where you are aiming at.

Recording your ideas on the go4

These days the chances are high that you have your smart phone with you wherever you go. Why not use it for something productive instead of logging onto [[anti-social-media]] or playing Candy Crush? If you just reduced the time you did one of those for say 5 to 10 minutes a day you could collect a lot of ideas over the course of just one year. 5 to 10 minutes is not much. It might just be a few stations with the subway or a small walk with the dog. Heck, even when brushing your teeth you have enough time to spare to write down an idea.

Let your mind wander

While collecting your ideas really helps to manifest who you are and who you want to be, it is important to not get hung up too much with that image of “getting to know yourself.” You have to treat it as a by-product and not as a means to an end. Because if you treat it as a means you start to want to record only beautiful thoughts and ideas that project your self opinion back to yourself.5 Do not go down that road! Your ideas are just for yourself. Do not publish them for instant gratification. Let them marinate and expand on them before you show them to someone else.

With that out of the way you should feel at ease. Stay in the flow when recording your ideas. This can be clean and poignant, when you are in the mood, but you have to allow yourself to be messy as well. This helps you to clear your mind and to articulate what you actually want to say.

What I do is mixing things up. Sometimes I type things into the notes app on my phone. Sometimes I have pen and paper on me (always a good recommendation) and quickly jot down a few scribbles. Or when I am walking the dog in the evening and not many people are running about I speak into my phone. I just hold it up and start dictating with text-to-speech activated (This is a godsend and one of the most underrated features of mobile phones in my opinion). I even try to speak in different languages. For more complex ideas on deeper topics I mostly speak in German because then I do not get bogged down in searching for rarely used English words. While talking about technology and related topics English comes much easier to me. And when I want to challenge myself I go for Spanish or Italian. The last to I can read and understand quite good, but when it comes to speaking it is a whole different story…

A nice side-effect of recording yourself with text-to-speech is that it actually helps with improving your articulation by giving you visual feedback of how the words you speak are translated. This can even lead to completely different ideas in cases where Siri completely misunderstands you and the translated text becomes a jumbled (and sometimes hilarious) mess.

Document your progress

By keeping track of your ideas, you create a record of your intellectual progress. You can look back and see how your ideas have evolved and how your thinking has matured. Linking your ideas to other ideas or relevant notes and concepts can help you to build a “Zettelkasten”. 6 A Zettelkasten is a network of interconnected ideas that can enhance understanding and discovery by connecting different thoughts.

In the beginning of your journey the true wealth of collecting your ideas might not seem evident, but over time this will become a true treasure that you happily refer back to.


  1. [[johannesisphording-writings/articles/finding-time|finding-time]] 

  2. [[the-creative-act]] Book by Rick Rubin 

  3. [[small-things]] 

  4. [[writing-on-the-go]] 

  5. [[the-laws-of-human-nature]] Book by Robert Greene 

  6. [[zettelkasten]]